Thinking of Becoming an Airbnb Host? City of Jacksonville Says No Way

Of the $4 billion Jacksonville attracts in visitor spending each year, overnight lodging accounts for more than $400 million, according to a 2016 Tourism Economics report.

Some residents are cashing in on a piece of Northeast Florida’s tourism pie by renting out rooms in their personal homes, often through room-sharing services like Airbnb. Jacksonville has more than 600 whole-house and single-room listings on Airbnb’s site, and that doesn’t include popular surrounding areas like the Beaches, Ponte Vedra or St. Augustine.

For one local homeowner, we’ll call her Samantha*, room-sharing has been a way to bring in extra cash while she’s in between full-time work. Samantha listed her downstairs spare bedroom on the site in early January, and says it’s only been vacant for seven days since.

“I figured I had the spare room to put the extra bed in for family or friends, so that if they’re over late, they can stay,” she says. “I thought, you know, why would I have it sitting empty when I could have it making some money for me?”

So far, Samantha says her neighbors have been fine with her frequent overnight guests. “I had one guest who was here to audition for the symphony, and he wanted to know if he could practice his trombone in the house,” she says. “I checked with my neighbors, and they were actually excited to hear him practice!”

But not everyone is in favor of room-sharing within residential neighborhoods.

A representative from the City of Jacksonville’s Current Planning Division says that Jacksonville prohibits Airbnb rentals except in designated historic overlays, including Springfield and Avondale—although no official ordinance has been defined or ratified in the city’s zoning codes to-date. This unwritten policy puts Jacksonville in the company of only a handful of cities throughout the country that have decided not to allow room-sharing, but so far hasn’t deterred homeowners from listing their houses or spare rooms.

In 2011, statewide legislation banned local cities from regulating vacation rentals, but cities that had existing regulations on the books were allowed to continue under a grandfather clause. Legislation introduced by then-Sen. John Thrasher and then-Rep. Travis Hutson in 2014 reinstituted local oversight to some extent, but did not allow local cities to determine where vacation rentals can be located.

Read more of this Jacksonville Magazine article by Melody Taylor by clicking here.